US & Canada

Shalom Ouanounou: Canada judge keeps patient on life support

Shalom Ouanounou Image copyright Hugh Sher
Image caption Shalom Ouanounou was intubated after an asthma attack

A Canadian judge has allowed an Orthodox Jewish family to keep their son on life support after he was declared brain dead by doctors.

Shalom Ouanounou, 25, of Toronto, was intubated after he suffered an asthma attack on 27 September.

A death certificate was issued once medical staff determined he met the conditions of "neurological death".

But his family want it revoked, arguing their religion does not accept death until the heart stops beating.

Wednesday's temporary injunction will keep the patient on life support until the religious freedom case is decided.

His father, Maxime Ouanounou, said in a court affidavit: "Shalom's belief is that discontinuing life support in these circumstances is murder and therefore contrary to his fundamental belief in the sanctity of human life.

"Anything less than continuing Shalom's life support is a failure to accommodate his lifelong, firmly held religious beliefs."

Hundreds of Orthodox Jewish supporters rallied inside and outside of the court on Wednesday in support of the family.

Hugh Scher, one of the lawyers representing the patient's case, told the BBC that Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects people from discrimination of religion and that this should extend to end-of-life care.

"The definition of death in Canada must reflect the accommodation of religious difference," he said. "This is not a unique or out-of-this world proposition."

In the US, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and California have all passed laws allowing for religious exemptions for those whose faiths do not accept the concept of brain death.

But many medical experts say that such provisions are not scientifically sound and would ultimately do more harm than good.

The Canadian Critical Care Society, which represents healthcare professionals who specialise in the areas of death determination, organ donation, and end-of-life care, says that without brain function, technological interventions should not give false hope.

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